Debate competition draws teens to Claremont McKenna

Debating the merits of clean coal, mandatory voting, and Andrew Jackson's place on the $20 bill, more than two hundred teenagers argued their way through the seventh annual Middle School Public Debate Program National Championship, held April 18 at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California.

The tournament, sponsored by the Forensics program at Claremont McKenna, drew 71 teams, representing 49 public and private schools – some from as far away as New York City and Washington, DC. Three students made up a debate team.

When the dust settled, teams from Sacramento public schools had finished first and fourth in the tournament. The top spot went to a team from Sutter Middle School, which compiled a perfect 5-0 record. Two other undefeated teams represented private schools from Los Angeles – Harvard Westlake and the Marlborough School. Sutter, located at Alhambra and J streets, defeated Harvard Westlake in a grand final debate. Harvard finished second overall, with Marlborough coming in third.

Students on the winning Sutter team were Jacob Crumbley, 14, Jake Kirian, 13, and Nick Locke, 13. They were coached by Michael Baradat.

Fourth place went to California Middle School on Vallejo and Land Park Drive. California finished with a 4-1 record, losing only to Harvard Westlake.

Sacramento students also took home individual honors. Will Block, 14, of California Middle School was named Top Speaker based on points awarded to each participant after each debate. He tallied 439 points over five debates. (Disclaimer: His father, A.G. Block, wrote this report.)

Block's California teammates, John Spurlock, 14, and Kyle Wing, 14, finished fifth and ninth, respectively. They were the only Sacramento students to finish in the top ten. California Middle is coached by Michael Holt.

The next day, a high school debate tournament was held, and the winning school has at least a tangential connection with the state Capitol. The winning team represented Ruben S. Ayala High School in Chino – a school named after the former Democratic state senator. Top individual honors went to Ayala sophomore Crystal Lee who, two years ago, won Top Speaker at the middle school competition.

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